County offers large East Cleveland property

Map of the Cuyahoga County property in East Cleveland that is for sale or lease and possible redevelopment.

Located near East Cleveland’s central business district on Euclid Avenue is this roughly 4.25-acre property, shaded in blue, owned by Cuyahoga County that it would like to sell or lease for possible redevelopment. The site is between the Red Line rail rapid transit’s Superior Station and stops on the HealthLine bus rapid transit, only a half-mile from the edge of University Circle (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

Advocacy groups urge Transit-Oriented Development

Cuyahoga County has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the disposition of a large piece of land that, if redeveloped, could help commercial activity in East Cleveland’s central business district. The sale or lease and possible redevelopment of the property could leverage off nearby University Circle and adjacent transit lines in providing a desperately needed economic lift to the long-struggling inner-ring suburb, say two advocacy groups.

On behalf of the Department of Public Works, the county’s Department of Purchasing sent notices earlier this month of the RFP to 33 recipients. Most were real estate brokerages but some were governmental and non-profit organizations including the Cleveland Clinic, city of East Cleveland, East Cleveland school district, Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope, East Cleveland Bridges of Hope, East Cleveland Public Library, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and others.

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The property is located at 13231 Euclid Ave. near the intersection of Superior Avenue. It measures approximately 4.25 acres and has a 25-year-old, 43,489-square-foot, single-level building on it. Solutions At Work (SAW) Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 1969 in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, was using the property for its East Cleveland Adult Activity Center. SAW chose to permanently close the center earlier this year rather than reopen it from a pandemic-induced shutdown.

In its RFP, the county gave no parameters for future uses or prospective users, other than for the users to be a “Plan Holder of Record.” To be added to the county’s Plan Holder of Record, call (216) 443-7200 to request a copy of the RFP and to be placed on the official plan holders’ list. There will be an open house to tour the property at 10 a.m. Dec. 3. Responses to the RFP must be received by 11 a.m. Dec. 16, 2021 by the county’s Department of Purchasing, 2079 East 9th Street, 2nd Floor, Room 2200, Cleveland, Ohio 44115.

The East Cleveland Adult Activity Center operated and closed by Solutions At Work or SAW.

As seen from Euclid Avenue and a HealthLine bus rapid transit station, the county’s closed East Cleveland Adult Activity Center, 13231 Euclid Ave., stands in the background in this November 2020 view (Google).

Christopher Stocking, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Clevelanders for Public Transit (CPT), urged that the property be redeveloped with Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) — a theme of providing a dense mix of uses like residential, commercial, institutional and/or recreational in a dense, pedestrian-friendly setting. The site is a half-mile from the eastern edge of University Circle.

TOD is typically provided next to stations along fixed-guideway transit routes like rail and bus rapid transit that offer frequent service. The county’s site is between rail and bus rapid lines — the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) Airport-Downtown-Windermere Red Line’s rail Superior Station and the Downtown-University Circle-Windermere HealthLine bus rapid transit stops near Rosalind Avenue.

Stocking referred NEOtrans to CPT’s Nov. 16 press release regarding the group’s demands for day-one actions from new Cleveland’s mayor and city council in terms of what could be done with the county’s site.

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“I realize it’s in East Cleveland, but we’d look for similar TOD reforms for East Cleveland and also call for more regional collaboration,” he said.

The Cuyahoga County-owned property with the Red Line train station behind for Superior Avenue at Euclid Avenue.

From Rosalind Avenue, the East Cleveland Adult Activity Center property offers an opportunity for redevelopment. In the background is the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Superior Station on the Red Line rail rapid transit to downtown Cleveland and Hopkins International Airport (Google).

In CPT’s press release, it called for a regional partnership to rezone and concentrate affordable, lead-free housing near GCRTA rail stations and along frequent bus corridors as recommended by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and a WSP Global Inc. study commissioned by the Greater Cleveland Partnership. CPT urged the allocation of substantial public incentives through potential new or existing sources of funding for this partnership.

Under the new infrastructure program, Congress may soon boost federal funding for an affordable housing program and incentivize development sites next to high-frequency transit routes like the Red Line and the HealthLine. The House of Representatives provided $10 billion for the program but that could be scaled back by the Senate. Funding would be administered jointly by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Transit Administration.

“There’s real money on the table from the new federal infrastructure bill, especially for the creation of more affordable housing,” said Stu Nicholson, executive director of the statewide advocacy group All Aboard Ohio. “That’s why we encourage the buyers and developers of this property to support and promote transit-oriented development by providing both a diverse array of ground-floor retail and mixed-income residential.”

A mixed-use development here could offer housing over ground-floor commercial and/or institutional use and boost nearby restaurants, grocery store and clothiers. A building of similar scale to the 162-unit, nine-story Apthorp Towers on the other side of the tracks would add more pedestrian activity and vitality to the area, he said.

Before 1965, 13231 Euclid Ave. was the East Cleveland railroad passenger station, built as part of the Cleveland Union Terminal project in 1930.

Before the mid-1960s, the site that’s the subject of the county’s request for proposals was where the East Cleveland passenger railroad station stood. Trains from Cleveland Union Terminal downtown paused here before making their journeys to Buffalo, Toronto and the East Coast. In this view, the station was days away from opening in spring 1930, 25 years before the Red Line rapid transit was built between the elevated train platforms and the railroad station (ClevelandMemory.org).

“Doing so improves stability and property values by attracting and retaining both people and businesses that have a stake in the neighborhood,” Nicholson said.

The property that’s the subject of the RFP was once the site of the East Cleveland railroad station, built as part of the Cleveland Union Terminal project in 1930. Nicholson said it was the suburban station for dozens of daily passenger trains between Cleveland and Buffalo, Toronto, New York City, Boston and points in between. The station was closed in 1964 and demolished shortly thereafter for the expansion of a Ford car dealership.

In addition to federal resources, there are also new state incentives available for redeveloping properties like this, especially in communities in need of transformation and which are served by public transportation. Those include the $100 million Transformational Mixed Use Development (TMUD) tax credit program to promote large-scale projects that are at least $50 million in value and either 350,000 square feet in size or 15 stories or more in height. Among the TMUD’s scoring criteria, developments next to regular transit routes are favored.

Another incentive is Ohio’s two-year, $500 million program to clear, clean and revitalize vacated properties. Included is $350 million in one-time spending for the clean-up, remediation and revitalization of brownfields (environmentally compromised sites) plus $150 million for the demolition of vacant and abandoned commercial and residential sites by county landbanks. This program was championed by Ohio Sen. Sandra Williams (D-21, Cleveland).

“Ohio has a number of abandoned and unaddressed brownfield spaces,” said Williams. “The very reason I sponsored Senate Bill 83 and Senate Bill 84 in this General Assembly is to provide resources to our communities to clean up these sites. Many of these sites create barriers between neighborhoods, stifle economic investment, blemish the beauty of our communities and contribute to dangerous environmental injustices. The funding included in this legislation creates an opportunity to eliminate these sites across the state.”

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